Shop ’till You Drop

Yesterday was NOT black friday. It was just a fairly cold Saturday. Actually it was pretty warm, too warm for late November. I took my kids to the Cornelius Low house, a mansion on River Road where there was supposed to be an exhibition on New Jersey’s Gilded Age with turn-of-the-century objects and information on Thomas Edison and history. The Low Mansion was closed and locked, as it has been most times I have visited. In fact, I’ve never been successful at visiting an old historical mansion here in New Jersey. Sometimes I think it’s because the state is heavily in debt and doesn’t have the money to fix roads and bridges, much less staff cultural sites.

On the other hand, nobody seems to mind this. In fact, most people I know have no interest in cultural sites or any of that nonsense. They know what they want to do on a weekend. They want to shop!!!! On the days up to Thanksgiving eve, most of the conversation I heard was about bargains. Specials on jeans at Wal-Mart and laptops at Best Buy and diamond earrings at Macys. Everyone was gearing up to go to the mall the day after Thanksgiving.

Then Black Friday, the long awaited day rolled around. The traffic was really light throughout much of New Jersey, except for the malls and big box stores, where there were reported to be long lines of cars. People were lining up in tents outside of Best Buy on the day before Thanksgiving, so they’d be the first ones in when the doors opened at 4:00 a.m. on Friday morning.

And the most extreme case of shopping frenzy came from the WAL-MART in Long Island, where frenzied shoppers broke down the doors of the store, stampeded inside, and trampled and killed a stock clerk on their way in. Reportedly, they kept shopping even after they knew he had been trampled and was receiving CPR. Way to go America!!! Shop till you drop!!!!!

Why do people want to shop as a pastime when they have a house crowded full of junk already, which the never use? Why do they shop when their credit card bills are way over the limit and they are drowning in debt? I’m guilty of this too. I love to shop. However, lately I’m in the process of buying a house. Therefore I’ve been determined to keep my credit card under a certain amount. So I’ve been taking a breather from shopping and spending money. But the questions I ask about shopping are also questions I ask of myself.

I think shopping is an addiction. We shop because we feel out of control in our lives. Our house may be messy and crappy, with lots of unfinished projects and work that needs to be done, not to mention all the junk we buy lying around. We sit around arguing and complaining. The stress levels are high in bad economic times. The mall is a beautiful place where everything is fixed up just right and life is good. A good deal gives immediate satisfaction and a feeling of control. And the shopping/debt addiction is tolerated by our society who just laughs it off as a silly weakness. Imagine us treating other addictions like this! “Drink ’till you drop!” or “take drugs till….” yeah you get it…

Anyway, I like to get out of the house too on a Saturday.  It would be great if there were options besides shopping here in New Jersey – a local museum, a children’s museum, or even an indoor playground like the former “Sports and Stuff” in East Brunswick. But these places seem to be dwindling or even non-existent as we opt for privatized activities such as shopping and “the mawl”